Palenquero and Spanish
A first psycholinguistic exploration
Linguists who have studied the Afro-Colombian creole language Palenquero — which shares a lexicon highly cognate with Spanish — have noted the introduction of Spanish elements, ranging from conjugated verbs and preverbal clitics to more complex morphosyntactic constructions. The apparent mixing has variously been attributed to decreolization, language attrition, code-switching, interference from Spanish, performance errors, and the possibility that such configurations have been an integral part of Palenquero since its origins. The present study reports the results of experiments conducted in San Basilio de Palenque, to probe Palenqueros’ implicit partitioning of Spanish and Palenquero. The results suggest that the Spanish incursions are not all feasibly characterized as code-switching, and do not meet the criteria for decreolization. The introduction of Spanish elements may be the residual effect of a return to the active use of a language that had lain effectively dormant for many years.
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